Bach und die Romantik – Bach and the Age of Romanticism
14 - 23 May 2004

My day at Bachfest: 22 May 2004

This is the second weekend in the Bachfest. I selected the organ tour to Dresden (10:00-c18:00) and the evening concert at Thomaskirche from 20:00.

No.54: Organ Tour to Dresden, 10:00-c.18:00

The bus journey from Leipzig to Dresden took 1 hour and 40 minutes. Compared with other trips offered at the Bachfest, I felt that the travel time was much longer, perhaps too long for a day trip. We first did the sight-seeing of Dresden on the bus covering a wider vicinity of the town, then had lunch (where we had an interesting Saxon dishes) in a restaurant in the city centre, then walked about the centre with a well-informed tour guide. Although it rained a little, the general atmosphere was great.  
Exciting mood in the bus


The Toccata in C major (BWV 564/1)
11 Fugues of uncertain attribution (of Pezold, Bach, Pergolesi, Seger, J. C. Kellner, and anon.) in a MS collection of Sächsischen Landesbibliothek and Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden.

The organ concert was held in the Catholic Hofkirche, a magnificent church where beautifully restored Silbermann organ was performed by Hansjürgen Scholze, the organist of the church since 1972. The concert itself featured the little-known pieces that were found in the manuscripts in the Dresden libraries, the idea which I think was good. Still, it would be better if some of these manuscripts were displayed there for the visitors at the same time. Afterwards, Mr Scholze explained the history of the instrument, and demonstrated its characters and capabilities, which was interesting.  
Magnificent organ

After the concert, we had about 30 minutes of free time to walk about on our own. Of course, there wasn’t enough time to visit the world famous art gallery, and many of us felt that we would want to spend a few days to explore the capital of Saxony. Compared with the Dresden that I knew from my previous visit (more than 10 years ago), Dresden has changed a lot; although there were some rubbles from the remains of the War and the communist stage, many parts of the town looked so much livelier and cleaner.

No.60: Choir and Orchestra concert in Thomaskirche, 20:00

This is the last concert that the Thomaskantor and Thomanerchor took part in the concert in this year’s Bachfest.


J.S. Bach: Kantate "Nun danket alle Gott", BWV 192
Mendelssohn: Symphonie nr.2 in B-Dur “Lobgesang”, op. 52

Simone Kermes, Soprano I
Uta Schwabe, Soprano II
Martin Petzoldt, Tenor
Matthias Weichert, Bass

Schola cantorum Leipzig, Thomanerchor Leipzig, Die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonic Bremen
Leitung: Georg Christoph Biller

View from my seat
  I sat in the front row of Hinterschiff section of the Thomaskirche. Today’s concert was performed from the balcony at the back, and when turning around, I could see the conductor and the soloists from the edge of the balcony. The acoustic from where I sat was interesting: the sound is coming from the back of the head (unless turning around, of course!), which was clear with little effect of the reverberation.

Both the choir’s diction and the delicate articulation of the strings and woodwinds were clear; the musical message from BWV 192 was thus very positive indeed. My only reservation was the soprano aria (mvt.2) where imprecise rhythm and strange placement of stress bothered me slightly.

Mendelssohn was a fine performance. The long sinfonia particularly impressed me, as each phrase was carefully shaped, and the balance of the ensemble was excellent. The choir was equally commendable (esp. mvt.5). The only moment that disconcerted me was mvt.8 where I noticed that some choristers were not watching the conductor; the consonants could be stressed a little more, I thought, to articulate the meaning of each word.

As for the soloists, they had some impressive as well as disappointing moments: the latter occurred early, perhaps owing to nervousness: in mvt.2, the 1st soprano forced her voice; in mvt.3 the tenor was out of tune for quite a long time (sung too high). At this point, I thought everyone had settled. In mvt.5 I thought the 2nd soprano, who had thinner voice than the 1st soprano, was better focused and more reliable; the tenor aria in mvt.6 was mostly convincing, even though in the recitative, esp. in pp range, he failed to convince me (his voice was not focused and projected properly). In mvt.9, the tenor made good start, but some untidy bits were exposed, while the soprano was quite impressive.

Despite some reservations I had on the soloists (who were apparently all educated in Leipzig), it was overall a good concert.

Yo Tomita

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